I stole an evening, took the train to London and joined The School of Life at Fenton House, Hampstead, for evening drinks in the orchard with Esther Freud.  We were there to celebrate midsummer and Tove Jansson.

The evening was warm and informal – cotton skirts and big boots, smiles and mercifully little small talk. We drank Finnish vodka with apple juice and fresh mint and sat on the just damp grass.

Esther Freud chatted to us about her visit to the summer house where Tove Jansson wrote The Summer Book.  She described the small black stove, the scrubbed wooden floor, the blue window, the gnarled forest of low trees and dark pools.  She also took us to the barren island where Tove Jansson and her partner Tuulikki escaped visitors to be together in a simple, square wooden house on a bit of black rock, beneath the shrieking terns – just day beds, time for each other and the daily routine and small challenges of swimming around the island, reading, writing and thinking. Lovely.

I met a teacher with red hair and warm hands and sat on the edge of her coat.  We talked about accidental planting, foxgloves, safe places, the smell of autumn and clogs. She said that she had always encouraged her daughters to go out in all seasons for the simple pleasure of coming home to climb under a blanket together.

We walked paths mown between grass left to grow feathery. There were beds of gentle chaos – digitalis, allium, blue iris, rosa rugosa, sage, philladephus, white campanula and purple poppies. And a green house with trays of lupin seedlings.

I left feeling a little bit more in love with life and with an appetite for the simple pleasure of tentative sunshine, friendship, imagination, curiosity and authenticity that had been offered to us.


Stealing time
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 19 June 2012

I came across these photos yesterday.  Both from last year. Both taken on mornings of patchy sun and drizzle. Both of the beautiful mess we make when we allow time to unfold and let inspiration in.

We drank sloe gin with our bread and cheese and talked about painting weeds, hygge, hiding and learning to sit still.

We cut up apples and opened old notebooks and new parcels.

Happy weekend.


Beautiful mess
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 18 May 2012

We stole half an hour for flat whites and carrot cake in our local café/grocery store this morning. I was ill tempered and tired of being woken early again and again. It was warm.  The wooden floor was swept.  Staff and customers were Saturday morning slow – getting stuff done but at their own pace.  A woman in a sea green knitted jumper with long, wiry hair was persuading her friend to join her for a wild swim.  We started to talk and, with the novelty and warmth of new connection, I began to find my enthusiasm for the day.   Minutes later there were five women sharing their love of swimming in deep natural pools, tidal rivers and the open sea.  For months I have wanted to dive in to the restorative flow and embrace of water.  It’s spring here.  Cold but alive.  Now is the time.  So we decided to buy a notebook and to leave it in the café on a shelf, next to the bread.  When one of us has found a new swimming spot, we’ll write it down – maybe we’ll pencil a map and the small details that will lead others to a new cove or the curve in a river where the bank is shallow enough to wade in.

The cure for anything

is salt water:

sweat, tears or the sea.

(Isak Dinesen)

A couple of books came up in our conversation:  Waterlog, of course, by the much loved Roger Deakin and Wild Swim by Kate Rew (founder of the Outdoor Swimming Society) and Dominick Tyler.  There must be more books and thousands of hidden places around the world to share with each other..Come to think of it, last summer I read Breath by Tim Winton. It was disquieting but lovely in places. He wrote about water, breath, fear, the thrill of fear, coming of age and the price of being more than ordinary. And he wrote about surfing and the joy of, ‘doing something completely pointless and beautiful’.


Diving in
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 5 May 2012

Come back to Portland with me. To Beam and Anchor – a workshop and retail space in an old warehouse on Interstate Avenue. Alchemy has taken place there – nothing explosive or glittering – not the harsh shine of gold but its glow. Jocelyn and Robert Rahm and their partner, Currie Person, have created a warm hub of creativity – a place for makers to gather, to collaborate and to sell their work. It’s a space where creative dialogue will flourish. Upstairs everything is bathed in soft light but it’s all happening. Between the carpentry and re-upholstery workshops and Jocelyn’s studio at the front of the building, is a kitchen built by Jocelyn’s brother Bren – smooth cement work tops, walnut cabinets and a 100 year old farm table they describe as a “gathering place for collaboration, bread breaking and story telling”. This is the heart of the building, a reflection of its promise; the place where they hygge, inspire and restore each other and invite the local community to join them.

It took eight months to renovate the building and then carefully select and curate the beautiful things that are for sale downstairs. They have managed to combine careful attention to detail with warmth and the vitality of creative energy. The juxtaposition of raw industrial location and beautiful, handmade goods is affecting. The workshop and kitchen upstairs lend authenticity and presence to the ground floor. People step in off the street to the lovely groan and clank of heavy goods trains and immediately stop to savour the beauty of even the smallest objects and to chat for a while. Nothing is too precious to handle, including the people – their uncomplicated warmth, love of good design and belief in community is the cohesive energy behind the project. The palette is muted but the vibe is not. Watch this space.
Good things will flow from here.  http://beamandanchor.com



Beam and Anchor
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 30 April 2012